Two weeks later, Tinks and the Doctor make an impromptu return visit to Shed Five. They come back seeming both relieved and saddened– a lot of the hoarders things are gone now.
There was an auction, says Tinks, and they sold off three quarters of what was there. But it was open when we go there today, and they said what’s left is going– they’ve already started clearing it into bins.
Take what you like, they were told. Fair salvage.
I don’t know if this classifies as breaking the Rules Of Urban Exploring or not. Take nothing but photos. But what if it’s somewhat of a rescue mission instead?
There seems to be a sense of urgency about it. I enlist Auntie Mickey for company (never go alone) and we find ourselves out the front of Shed Five just two hours after my conversation with Tinks.
It’s the same shrieking quiet that engulfed the place the other day… Far off industrial sounds the only back drop to what is, essentially, one of the ugliest parts of wider Sydney.
But people have been here. The garden is trampled, many things removed. Shiny new silver skip bins, six of them, stand like lonely guards across the alley between sheds, obscuring the drifts of urban leftovers behind them.
It feels like a challenge. We scout around, look for a way in. I glance at the padlock on the huge sliding corrugated door at he front of Shed Five…
And notice that the padlock is attached to, essentially, nothing. It’s locked, indeed but only to itself.
A few hefty pushes, some creaking and the sound of rust on rust, and we’re in. The next door, tight chicken mesh with a hand lettered sign that reads “Back in 5 mins”, it slides open with relatively little effort too. The sign is so poignant that it would make me want to cry… if not for the wonderment that stretches before me for so far I literally can only just see the far wall of this massive shed.
Again, it’s that feeling of your eyes not being wide enough, not being able to take enough in at once, unable to hook around the edges of what is in front of you.
To the left there’s a sunny space, windows made of wire mesh that let in the air and light. It’s haphazard shelves are lined with crockery and glassware– vases and cookies jars, dinner sets and tea cups, butter dishes and serving ware. The shelving may be chipboard and milk crates, but the items on them are stacked neatly and divided into rough, obscure categories.
Auntie Mickey and I become lost, looking, examining, rebelling, blowing dust off cut crystal, sipping at the colors of the glassware vases reflected trough the window. It feels like being hypnotized… Eventually, as we reach the end of the row of cutlery, we realize how much left there is to explore, how may small ares filled with trash (treasure) there are left to look at.
We quicken our pace.
On the right side of the crockery aisle is the main entrance, slightly raised for the first thirty feet or so. The front area must have been Hoarder’s office– it’s a small square braced with jewelry cabinets that are empty, of course– and in one corner there is a desk, littered with Lego pieces and Antique collectors magazines and a few notepads marked with names and phone number and otherwise unintelligible scrawl.
It’s furniture first. Tall boys, chests of drawers, cupboards, warded robes, desks. An old Eskimo brand ice box, a few littered bottles and tins, brands we recognize in their first incarnations– Johnson’s plaster strips, Cadbury Roses chocolates. A thermos that actually is a Thermos. Occasionally we find random objects… A creepy jack in the box…
… A vintage manicure set.
Toward the end of the of the gauntlet of furniture seems to be the electrical department. Boxes upon boxes of records, all shapes and sizes– one trunk I stare at in wonderment as I flip through the Beatles, the Doors, Led Zeppelin. There are ancient Polaroid cameras that flip out from their box, record players portable and not so portable. Huge, heavy looking wooden boxes that it takes me a moment to comprehend are TV sets, more casing than screen, dials that must have tuned channels like a radio.
Electricals fade into sparseness and the book section begins, first the occasional comic and magazine, then actual book shelves packed with literature older than I am. Enid Blyton and the Famous Five– there are rows of them. Six copies that I can count of Flowers In The Attic. Playboys from 1972, Women’s Weeklies from 1948.
Opposite the books are toys, and it feels like a farcical graveyard of my eighties childhood– I spot Alf, Care Bears and a suitcase spilled open to vomit out literally hundred’s of Tazo’s. The toys are in bad shape mostly– moldy, dirty and stained, possibly trodden on as people tramped through here for the auction. The floor, once it lowers at the edge of the furniture section, is much as nature intended– dirt. Heavy rainfalls of late have made places into muddy puddles which have been bridged by wooden pallets and the tops of desks, there’s even a surfboard used to skirt the squelch in one place. Sections of floor that haven’t been flooded have had temporary floors made with with rugs, rolls of carpet, and cast off roller and shed doors.
The back right hand corner is the only truly disorganized area in this place… it looks as if, at one stage, it was the Hoarders sorting place, his holding area. There’s a yellow fence with a ‘Closed’ sign on it, and imagine it must have barricaded off this area from visitors. It seems to be mostly junk, piled around boxes and broken bits of furniture.
I guess that’s why this place is as it is. Where I saw junk… he must have been a patient man. Wading through the cast offs of other peoples lives takes countless hours, and seems to drain the soul as well. (This is the place where diamonds are cut, where’s things whisper louder than normal….)
The final corner we visit is foreboding in its height and the depths of it’s dark, hidden spaces… Spaces within spaces, for this corner is nothing but trunks. Trunks and boxes and steamers and crates, all of them is somewhat usable condition. They are stacked, eight high and six deep, at least eight across as well… A mighty wall of storage spaces. The ones we check, those closest to us, are empty.
We break the rules again… we take more than photographs. But it feels OK. It feels as if these things belong to no one now, when the essence of the man who collected them was to reuse them , replace the, re-home them.
I imagine that anything valuable has been taken or sold off, but that’s not what I’m looking for anyway.
Practical, beautiful, functional, or necessary. Auntie Mickey and I select things carefully. Some we put back… It just doesn’t feel right, or we decide we don’t need it as much as something else.
I find a broken, antique rocking horse, a dusty disused Singer, an ancient tin hat. A few records that I’ll tell you more about another time.
|Box, with Bump for scale.
A tiny, solid wooden cupboard, a wardrobe for fairies. A butter dish, gla
zed ceramic stamped with Japan; a cookie jar that I grabbed because it looks like one my Gran has had forever. (I’m told people collect cookie jars, and this one might be obscure… email me if that’s your thing.) Some cut glass bowls and ring stands, and a curious looking reindeer that I’m assuming is used for jewelry as well… The Hoarder had it in the same category, the same division within the rockery section.
Auntie Mickey helps me struggle out a massive, solid wooden box that is the perfect size for a toy box for my kids.
We close up the shed again, tight as it was… you can only get in if you really look, of you pay attention. I actually wonder if that padlock was as it is, securing nothing, the first time we came here, we just didn’t look hard enough.
I’m not sure what happens now… those shiny silver skip bins, I guess. Treasure return to being trash.
It still seems sad. But everything outlives it usefulness eventually.
Even the Hoarder himself.